How is cocaine and crack addiction treated?
Recovery often begins with “detox,” the body’s physical withdrawal from cocaine. Physical symptoms of withdrawal can begin within a few hours and last up to seven days. The inability to enjoy normal pleasure may take longer to recover.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle tremors.
- Severe headache.
- Increased appetite.
- Slowed thinking.
- Inability to sleep (insomnia).
- Bad dreams.
As soon at the patient can begin therapy, he or she enters the next phase of addiction treatment. This involves group participation, counseling, and, often, psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The goal of counseling (also called psychotherapy or “talk therapy”) is to help the addict understand the effects of cocaine use, face the issues that lead to drug use, and learn ways to stay away from cocaine. Another therapy strategy uses incentives to motivate by providing rewards to people who remain drug free. This therapeutic approach is also called contingency management.
Group participation usually involves the “12-step” process that is common to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. If the addict also suffers from a psychiatric issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder, such issues also need to be treated or else they will probably lead the person to go back to using drugs.
Are any prescription drugs available to treat cocaine addiction?
No medications are currently approved specifically to treat cocaine addiction. Researchers are studying the use of medications approved for other conditions to treat cocaine addiction. The medications showing the most promise are psychostimulants, modafinil, bupropion, topiramate and disulfiram. However, due to small study size and inconsistent results, there is no strong support for any individual drug at this time.
A cocaine vaccine is in early testing stage. The hope of this vaccine is to reduce the risk of relapse and the return to cocaine use. The vaccine works by stimulating the production of cocaine-specific antibodies. These antibodies bind to cocaine, preventing it from crossing the blood-brain barrier and stimulating the pleasure center. So far, studies in humans have shown mixed results. Some patients with high levels of antibodies were better in abstaining from cocaine. However, other studies showed no difference in ability to abstain between those with higher levels of antibodies versus those who received a placebo vaccine.
Are there treatments to rapidly reverse the effects of an overdose of cocaine?
No drugs are currently available to rapidly reverse the cocaine overdose itself. However, emergency care would treat the life-threatening side effects – the stroke, seizures, and heart attack – that the overdose may have caused.